Gesneriads and How to Care for Them

by | Feb 9, 2017 | 2 comments

Last night I went to my monthly African violet club meeting. At each meeting, we discuss different topics, not only African violets but other members of the family as well. I took pictures of many of the host’s beautiful plants and some that were brought by members for “show and tell”.

'Evergrace' African violet

Evergrace’ African violet’


Gesneriads are a family of plants that include not just African violets, but also Sinningia, streptocarpus, petrocosmea, primulina, aescynanthus, nematanthus, and more. The pictures below are just a few of the plants we talked about last night and thought you might like to see some beautiful violets and other plants in the family.


Almost all the plants shown here have been grown under fluorescent electric lights which are on 12-14 hours a day. The plants discussed need approximately the same care. The episcias would like a little more humidity than the rest and for that reason, are often grown in terrariums. They don’t necessarily need a cover to keep them happy, so planting them in an open glass container works just fine. If you don’t have a light stand, placing your gesneriad in an east window is the best option but remember to turn them often to keep them symmetrical. Growing under lights helps with the symmetry, but plants will still need to be turned, as the light is not the same along the fluorescent light as the light is brighter in the middle of the tubes and gets dimmer near the ends. Keep all these plants evenly moist, never allowing them to completely dry out.


Since writing this, most of the members of the AV club have changed to LED lights which are more cost-effective and energy efficient. They are only left on 7-8 hours compared to the 12-14 the fluorescents needed to be on. The lights emit the same light along the whole bulb, so it isn’t as necessary to move the plants around. 


Petrocosmea are mostly grown for their amazing foliage. They do flower but the foliage is the main attraction. There are different types, but check out the one below that looks like it could be petted like a kitty.

Petrocosmea 'Shortnin' Bread'

Petrocosmea ‘Shortnin’ Bread’


The episcia below is a small plant with yellow flowers, called ‘Jim’s Daphne’s Choice’. The most popular episcias though are grown for their fabulous variegated foliage.

Episcia 'Jim's Daphne's Choice'

Episcia ‘Jim’s Daphne’s Choice’

The espicia below is grown in an open terrarium to raise the humidity, which they prefer.

Episcia in terrarium

The mostly pink-leaved types need to be in a terrarium

African violets

Below are a few African violets. I love the miniature one shown with my finger next to it. The leaves are smaller than my fingertip and the flowers are only a little more than 1/4″ across. African violets grow well in an eastern exposure or under lights. Don’t allow them to dry out, keep the dead spent flowers removed. Read more about African violets here.


This Sinningia below is only about 1″ high and the flower was approximately 1 1/2″ long. It was so cute!

Sinningia 'Little Imp'

Sinningia ‘Little Imp’

African violets

I had to show you more of the gorgeous African violets. They are the most popular gesneriad after all, and you can see why.


The grouping below is streptocarpus, also easy to grow, and look at those flowers! They remind me of pansies, my favorite flower. They are more forgiving of drying out a bit, as their leaves are quite thick.


The beautiful flowers below belong to the lipstick plant or Aeschynanthus radicans and I snapped this picture at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.


Aeschynanthus radicans

Aeschynanthus radicans


The plant below is a goldfish plant and the one shown is called ‘Tropicana’ I especially love it because of the striped flowers. I found this one aGraye’s Greenhouse near me. I’ve found these plants need to be treated a bit like succulents. They have quite thick leaves and don’t like to be overly wet, yet, don’t allow them to completely dry out, either as they will drop leaves. 

'Tropicana' Goldfish plant Nematanthus

‘Tropicana’ Goldfish plant Nematanthus

As you can see, there are many amazing plants in the gesneriad family. I hope you will try some of these easy plants. They flower almost year-round in our homes, as long as they have enough light. Try a couple! You won’t be disappointed.

Have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. DC Tropics

    Many gesneriads do like to dry out a bit, especially the epiphytic genera like Aeschynanthus, Codonanthe, and Nematanthus. Primulinas (formerly known as Chiritas) are also very forgiving of neglect and deserve to be more widely grown.


      Thanks John! I generally like to tell people to keep those plants evenly moist or they let them dry out too much. I love primulinas and they do take a lot of neglect. I can attest to that! And the foliage on some of them is spectacular! I know the people in my African violet group also say that you know it is time to water a strep when it has wilted. I don’t like to do that though, because the ends turn brown. This family is one of my favorites. Have a great day!


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